Regulator sorry for past disciplining of gay doctors

1 month ago 27

stethoscopeImage source, Getty Images

By Michelle Roberts

Digital health editor

The UK's medical regulator says it is "truly sorry" for its past homophobia and taking disciplinary action that ended some gay doctors' careers.

The General Medical Council admits it added to the harm some male medics faced when convicted of having sex with men.

Records show eight were struck off the register, so they could no longer work.

The last erasure was in 1966 - a year before the decriminalisation of sex between men in England and Wales.

The archives reveal the GMC considered cases against at least 40 practitioners, for engaging, or attempting to engage, in consensual sexual activity and intimacy with other men.

Prof Dame Carrie MacEwen, who chairs the regulator, said homophobic laws and attitudes, which remained into the 1980s and beyond, had caused personal and professional harm.

'We apologise'

"We compounded that harm when we also took additional regulatory action against those who were on the medical register," she said.

"In some cases, that meant the end of a practitioner's career.

"For this, we are truly sorry.

"We cannot be sure of the true number of doctors we took historic action against based on convictions that would now be considered unjust.

"But the impact on every one of them, and on those close to them, will have been considerable.

"Laws and attitudes have changed in the years since, as has the GMC.

"These are historic cases but it is right that we apologise for them."

'Unjust decisions'

Dr Duncan McGregor, from Gladd, The Association of LGBTQ+ Doctors and Dentists, said: "The profound impact of these actions on their lives cannot be overstated.

"This apology is an important step in righting the wrongs of the past and, while the hurt and damage that has been caused to those doctors cannot be undone, it is important to acknowledge past injustices."

But while doctors were no longer struck off for their sexuality, prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender healthcare staff persisted.

"We hope this gesture brings some measure of solace to those affected doctors and their loved ones," Dr McGregor said.

"It is particularly important to recognise that this initiative came from within the GMC.

"And we extend our gratitude to members of the GMC's LGBTQ+ staff network for their work and dedication in helping to bring about this apology."

Ginny Bowbrick, who chairs the Pride in Surgery Forum (Prism) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "We strongly welcome the GMC's apology today.

"It recognises the considerable impact unjust decisions have had on so many doctors.

"This apology is progress for LGBTQ+ doctors - but we are mindful that much work remains to be undertaken by us all to achieve true equity."

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